‘Political Correctness’ at the office: Use what your mother taught you

How to be PC: Mama knows best Photo: Lessons learned in childhood from Mom can help you on the job.

SALT LAKE CITY, May 7, 2013 —Throughout the week this column receives numerous inquiries regarding “un-politically correct” office behavior. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, it’s time to review some of our Mother’s favorite teachings and simplest sayings to see what we can learn about being PC in the work place.

After all the essence of politically correctness is behaving in a respectful and inclusive manner; whether we realize it or not, most of our mother’s oft repeated phrases were preparing us for just that.

Let’s take a look:

1. “Let your sister have a turn, too.” Yes, technically you’re older so it’s understandable that you feel like you should get to sit up front/choose the movie/get the toy from the cereal box, etc. We feel you. But no matter your age or the issue at hand, even if you disagree or have a differing opinion, it’s important to give others room to express themselves and show that their expressions are valued.

This can be difficult since people say ridiculous things all the time, but one of the main components of being PC at work is showing, through your actions, that every voice/opinion/concern/idea has value, even if it’s not your own.

2. “As long as you live under my roof….” There are many variations of this little parental saying, but they all boil down to the same principle: whoever owns the house, makes the rules. As frustrating as this was to hear growing up when all you wanted to do was watch Dawson’s Creek on a school night and before you did your homework, it’s also an essential rule to remember in the work place.

Your bosses will set the rules and tone of the office’s culture, and every office is different. If you have a question about what type of conversation, humor and co-worker interaction is appropriate, take a cue from the woman or man in charge. Observe how your bosses approach their peers and make that a reference point for your own behavior.

3. “Tell me about your day?” Car rides home from school, talking about lacrosse practice, math homework, and the upcoming spring dance, were some of the best conversations we ever had with our moms. In this one, small sentence she taught us that listening is one of the best ways to get to know others and understand them. Use this method with your colleagues; take time to learn where they are from, how they view the world and what is important to them. As they share these things with you, you will learn how to show him/her respect and care. 

4. “Call me when you get there.” Annoying yet endearing, this practice was put in place by parents to keep us safe. It showed that whatever we were doing and wherever we were going, they wanted to know that we were okay. To maintain a politically correct culture, take time to see that those that you work with are okay with how you’re treating them.

Ask them how they feel about your communication style. Is it effective? Productive? Offensive? How can it improve? Asking questions like these puts people at ease, and if you were to say something offensive, you would let others know from your conversations that an offense was not your intent.

5. “I don’t care who started it, you stop it.” If, despite your best efforts, you do offend someone or unintentionally act in a disrespectful manner, deal with it as soon as possible. Maybe your co-worker said something offensive too, maybe s/he chose to take what you said out of context and is being a big baby about it, whatever the issue. Because you can control only your own behavior, address it right away. Bad feelings fester and the longer they go unaddressed, the bigger of an issue they become.

See? Our wonderful mothers taught us so well, giving us so many reasons to love them. Remember, even though being politically correct gets a bad reputation because of its stuffy and hall-monitorish connotations, at its core, it’s a principle of inclusion and can enhance our work environment and improve our office relationships.

Readers: This list can be added to. How do you maintain a PC work environment? Is what you’re doing helpful or stifling? 

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Angela Trusty

Angela Trusty brings her great life observations and advice Communities.  Angela also authors   ‘Ask Angela’ which also appears bi-monthly in the Deseret News. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the lucky sibling of 5 sisters and 1 brother.

She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, but Baltimore will always be her home. 


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